Ramadan Kareem!

Beth here. Now that more NYUAD folks are arriving in Abu Dhabi and telling Vic and me that they’ve found our blog, I feel a new motivation to post. I also have an extra two hours per day because the official workday during Ramadan is reduced by two hours.

You read that correctly — during Ramadan, we only work 6 hours per day. Everyone works these hours, not just fasting Muslims. The NYUAD Library is open from 9 to 3. I’ve been coming in a bit before that and leaving a bit later because I have so much on my plate, but the official hours are 9 to 3. What to do with this extra time? Blog, of course!

I thought I’d use this post to share some tips we picked up from our move to Abu Dhabi back in April. These are just tips from the two of us personally and are not in any way official advice. In no particular order:

TV options are expensive and not great. (I’m being generous with “not great.”) Consider bringing your DVD and/or book collection for entertainment. Vic and I have decided to buy an AppleTV and load it up with content from iTunes in lieu of a TV subscription. TV, phone and internet from Etisalat (the only option as of now, du is on the horizon) cost 399 dirhams/month and the English options are very limited. You can upgrade for movie channels and more options, but it’ll cost you.

Your DVD player may work just fine. We didn’t bring ours because TVs come in PAL and NTSC format (NTSC is North America, PAL is everywhere else), and we were concerned that our NTSC DVD player would not play well with a PAL TV (we bought a new TV here). The TV we bought is PAL and NTSC, so we should have brought our DVD player.

HDTV is RARE. If you’re addicted to HD, then plan to bring and/or buy a lot of DVDs. There are less than a dozen HD channels on offer right now. Oh, and there’s no DVR, at least not yet. It’s supposed to be out this month though, so we remain optimistic.

Power convertors (both for just the plug and for the voltage) are plentiful and not expensive. The ones for just the plug are dirt cheap because half the electronics sold here have the UK three prong plug, and half have the European two prong plugs.

You may want to get an International Drivers license. It costs $15 at AAA is (IMHO) is worth it for piece of mind between the time you arrive here and the time you get your residency permit and UAE drivers license. I’ve heard of people renting cars with just their US drivers license, but I don’t think this is totally kosher (or halal, as the case may be).

If you’re a baker, bring plenty of vanilla extract, as it is hard to find and quite pricey.

Speaking of pricey food products, if you like real maple syrup, bring some with you because it’s (no joke) $30/not so big bottle.

For any Texans out there, Dr. Pepper is available in Abu Dhabi! In fact, it’s available in our NYUAD Cafe for 3 dirhams! (most sodas are 1 dirham, but DP is more expensive in the stores, so…) Actually, lots of Tex-Mex products are available (e.g. Rotel, Old El Paso).

You are allowed to bring a reasonable amount of medicine with you. You have to go to a pharmacy for Tylenol (called Panadol here) or antacids (but you don’t need a prescription). Re: antacids, the options here are really different from the ones at home, so if you have a strong preference for Freshmint Rolaids, bring a bottle with you. The UAE has very strict drug laws though, so be sure any medications you have aren’t on the banned list (e.g. codeine). And for goodness sake, use some common sense.

When I was packing up my clothes, I kept wondering what “respectful clothing” meant. Women here can wear whatever we want, although the less you wear, the more you may get stared at. Dubai seems to be less conservative than Abu Dhabi. However, right now it’s Ramadan and everywhere is a bit more conservative. It’s about respect. So, shoulders and knees should be covered, and leave those skin-tight duds in the drawers. When it’s not Ramadan, I follow the “one at a time rule” — if I’m showing my shoulders with a sleeveless top, then I wear pants or a long skirt. If my skirt is above the knee, then I wear sleeves. This systems works for me.

You’ll need some passport photos with a white background for various ID cards, but just buy them once you get here. We bought 8 for 20 dirhams, and I spent 20 DOLLARS for 2 back at CVS in New York. Sometimes, supply and demand works in your favor.

I made great use of www.teuxdeux.com — it’s a simple website that lets you make to do lists. It was hugely helpful for getting our lives packed up and moved across the ocean, mostly because I could access from anywhere that had an internet connection and thus could not lose it.

Hotel restaurants in Abu Dhabi are good. I recommend that you just stick to hotel restaurants for the first couple days until you feel a bit more adventurous and adjusted to AD. I wish we had done this — Vic and I ate at some truly crappy restaurants the first week. But I know some folks on staff who think that hotel restaurants are a cop out and seek out more authentic experiences. It’s up to you. The alternative is to ask for recommendations, which plenty of us will be happy to provide. Also, check out www.eatingabudhabi.com — they have lots of online menus (but are sadly nothing like menupages, for you New Yorkers). It’s Ramadan, so the vast majority of restaurants are closed during the day, only opening at night after Iftar. Plan your lunch accordingly.

GET YOUR HAIR CUT BEFORE YOU LEAVE. Finding a trusted hairdresser has been, ah, challenging.

If you’re reading this and already in Abu Dhabi, feel free to make any suggestions of your own in the comments. Also feel free to contradict my/our advice. Nothing like some healthy debate. We’re also happy to answer any questions you may have.

4 Responses to “Ramadan Kareem!”

  1. David Rift says:

    Wonderful blog. I have been here for 18 months would like to offer a couple suggestions regarding TV, video and the likes. In lieu of Apple TV look at a Mac Mini. This means another computer which may be a plus, access to Itunes to purchase or rent movies and most importantly the new Apple allow direct connection to a TV via HDMI. This also eliminates the need for a DVD player and by its nature is region free so if you source out DVD’s from Europe, England, USA or UAE they will all play. Region free DVD’s are available from most stores including the Coop and Carrefour.

    Also consider to have a Slingbox set up in the States so that you can obtain all the channels that are at home.

    There is broadband service with fiber to most new residence. I’d be glad to step anyone thru the electronic and telecom front since keeping entertained and connected with home is so vital.

    Oh by the way Gents who are looking for hair cuts might want to check out the Salon at the Beach Rotana. It has worked for me but then again roulette at one of the storefront places which is always fun.

  2. Gale Shorb says:

    Be careful with your “one at a time” (shoulders and knees) clothing rule. If you read the Marina Mall guide, you will see at the bottom under “Message to shoppers,” a drawing of a little black dress, both sleeveless and short, circled in red with a line through it stating, “Please wear respectful clothing. For example, shoulders and knees should be covered.”


    They are cracking down on this in Dubai because the local women are complaining.

    Gale Shorb

  3. JJ says:

    Hi there! How fun, I love finding blogs about Abu Dhabi (google result of “Ramadan timings Homecenter”). I grew up here (expat – not local), lived in the US for about a decade, and recently moved back.

    For hairdressers, I recommend trying out Jean or Rabih at Glow at the One-to-One hotel, or Eddie at the Abu Dhabi Country Club (formerly Health & Fitness Club). All hairdressers here require pretty strict direction. Don’t give them any creative license until you’ve been a few times and trust them.

    As for clothing…eh. Neither I nor any of the people I know have ever been asked to cover up. Granted, I don’t run around with my boobs or thighs hanging out, but I haven’t been too concerned with being singled out as indecent. I’ve seen some gals who wear the headscarf in skin tight clothes that show off more than I am, ha!

    For furniture, we gave up and are buying/shipping all major pieces from the US – stuff is just too expensive/too ugly and I don’t want to buy temporary “this’ll do” stuff. Getting a container isn’t too pricey, especially if you share it with friends. What we do have so far is a mix of Pottery Barn (Mirdiff Mall Dubai), IKEA, and a few unique pieces from that great furniture spot on the bottom floor of Carrefour on Airport Rd. If you’re looking for a piece of middle eastern flair, I really recommend it. Can’t remember what it’s called…but you can’t miss it – all the stuff is just hanging out in the hallway.

    Things I stock up on while in the US, aside from the Costco-sized bottle of vanilla: Tollhouse Chocolate Chips, Tylenol, Gas-X/Pepto, good deodorant, pecans (SO EXPENSIVE), and beauty products (yeah, most is available here, but at a 30% premium).

  4. cwilde says:

    Hi All,

    This blog has been great, as my wife and I are planning our move to Abu Dhabu this summer (August 2012) from Toronto, Canada. Although we’re both the adventurous type, it’s definitely nerve racking. Everyone around here knows of Abu Dhabi, but their views of the city are completely backgrounds. I find it annoying that I often have to prove to people (via the internet) that my wife will not have to wear a full vale.

    Anyway, another option for TV/movie selection may be signing up to Netflix. I know UAE has certain restrictions on websites, but it may be something to explore.